By Anne Holland, President
For most marketers, summer is not the time when you go to the beach or take that extra Friday off for a longer weekend. Nope, summer is the time when you gear up for the big fall season. Top 10 ways:
#1. Review past test data
I've noticed when marketers try to recall results from tests even just a few weeks back, their memories are pretty far off. You think you remember the numbers perfectly ... but then when you actually look at the report, you're surprised by the real data.
Lesson -- never make decisions for your upcoming fall campaigns until you've reviewed the action numbers one more time.
#2. Launch new tests
More ecommerce sites launch tests during August than any other time of the year. If you surf sites whose peak selling seasons are the holiday season, you'll find all sorts of neat stuff going on right now, including shopping cart redesigns, internal search results page revamps, 3D, audio and video added to merchandise pages, etc.
If you're B-to-B marketer, now is the time to run an A/B test on your lead gen landing page to see if a few tweaks can increase your conversion rates. Clean up your landing page now before you begin driving heavy traffic with third-quarter campaigns.
#3. Face-time with other departments
Chances are summertime is a slightly easier time of year for the rest of the organization. Execs who couldn't possibly spare time for a meeting with marketing in the past could be open to one now. Schedule lunches or meetings with everyone from business development to customer service. You don't need an agenda past relationship building.
The relationships you build now will serve you well when it's crunch time later in the fall.
#4. Customer verbiage studies
This is also the best time of year to grab at least few customers on the phone or in person. Your goal is to discover both their pain points (what could your product or service solve) and what sorts of language/verbiage they use to describe your offerings.
Your findings will feed directly into everything from search marketing keyword lists to email newsletter article headlines for fall. Nothing is sweeter to a customer or prospect's ears than words they themselves would use to describe things.
#5. Canned content creation
Professional managing editors in the publishing world have a secret weapon they use to survive busy seasons -- canned content. This may be anything from feature articles to interesting blog postings that they hold on hand for "just in case."
Two keys -- the content is "evergreen," meaning it can be held for use in emergency situations at any time in the next six months to year without appearing dated. Also, the content is designated "emergency use only," which means you don't slip it into the regular schedule.
Fate does have an unscheduled, but very real, emergency in store for you this fall -- probably just when you don't have time to cope with it. A writer will fall ill, a launch will be delayed, whatever. You'll be incredibly grateful to have that canned content ready to slide in at the last moment.
#6. Revamp analytics reports
Everyone I know who has a pretty good analytics system (data coming from their Web site and other marketing campaigns) complains they never have time to really review it.
I'm not saying this is the best time to review it. Instead, I'm saying summer is the best time to set up a few more reports. Why more when you need less? That's the point -- your new reports will be focused on the most useful data points only.
Think over what data do you need that will make a big difference in marketing decisions that will confront you this fall? Plus, what data would help you impress the management team that marketing's doing a great job?
Boil down your analytics report needs to just those (far fewer) things and set systems in place -- automated if possible, cheap temp or intern labor if not -- to be able to produce them from now on.
#7. Revisit all templated/automated content
Run an exhaustive research mission to collect every bit of
automated content your prospects and customers receive. This is content such as service letters, email autoresponses, basic brochures, corporate "about us" pages, PowerPoint slide templates, transactional notices, employee email SIGs ... even the on hold audio on your phone system.
Are the logos still correct? How about offers, tone, colors? Chances are something's out of date. Something always is.
#8. Research external helpers
If business booms this fall and the management team turns to you to say "rev up marketing even further," are you prepared? In the middle of your busiest season you may not have time to research vendors or hire and train more staff.
Now is the time to build an in-house file of external resources. Check out everything from transcriptionists (everything audio on your site should have matching text to help boost SEO) to graphic artists. You should have contacts, costs and samples of their work when appropriate.
Also, check when your main vendor contracts run out. Are you planning to re-evaluate vendors for 2007? You may not have time closer to January to start the RFP process on a proper researched foundation.
#9. Start a public swipe file
Buy a huge bulletin board and hang it somewhere that everyone in the marketing department (at least locally) can see it. Plus, start a house library of binders to browse through when the board is full. Companies with marketers worldwide often add a swipe file to their intranet or create a private group blog for them.
Then, start adding every piece of creative you like (even if you like only one element of it) to that file. Ask other departments to do the same (great way to help management feel "involved" in marketing.)
Include copies of everything from email newsletters to
PowerPoints and landing pages. However, don't break copyright -- generally, if it's a marketing piece that's run publicly you're safe copying it, but not so if it's an article.
Later this fall, when you are on crazy deadline and need an idea to spark your creativity, your swipe file is there to help you. That said, always test new creative. Never assume marketing creative, even swiped from huge successful organizations, is
something that's going to work the best for you.
#10. Plan a fabulous vacation for January
If you're not a skier, consider Australia or New Zealand.
Remember, their seasons are switched from ours, so you can have that perfect beach vacation you've always dreamed of and still be in marketing.
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